Dozens slain or found murdered across Iraq

Prime minister-designate promises to install a Cabinet within 15 days


BAGHDAD, Iraq -- At least 40 Iraqi civilians and security force recruits were either killed or found murdered yesterday, the Iraqi authorities said, as insurgents unleashed a wave of car bombs across Baghdad.

Seven car bombs struck the capital, killing at least 10 people and wounding 76 others. Their targets were the back gate of Mustansiriya University, two Iraqi police patrols and a busy intersection at rush hour. All of the dead were civilians.

At least 15 other Iraqis died across the country, the victims of by drive-by assassinations, bombs and mortar fire, according to an Associated Press tally from the police.

In addition, the bullet-riddled corpses of 15 recruits for a special Interior Ministry unit trying to help calm the restive city of Ramadi were found in the backs of pickup trucks in Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, a ministry official said. Later yesterday, Iraqi officials said they had reports that the bodies of 17 other security force recruits were found in a similar slaying 60 miles west of Ramadi.

In some ways the scene here was reminiscent of a period about a year ago, when Sunni Arab insurgents mounted coordinated car bomb attacks across the capital and killed scores of Iraqis in an attempt to destabilize and intimidate the country's infant interim government.

At the time, the prime minister-designate, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, was struggling to name a Cabinet, a harbinger of what many Iraqi officials came to describe as weak and unappealing leadership that became almost powerless to deal with a sophisticated insurgency and growing sectarian fighting.

Perhaps trying to stem any repeat of the sense of precariousness that dominated Baghdad last April, the new prime minister-designate, Jawad al-Maliki, chosen just two days ago, confidently predicted on state-run television that he would have a new Cabinet in place in 15 days - half the time accorded him under the new constitution.

And in a CNN interview, he vowed to fix the main problem facing the country: "a torn relationship in the Iraqi community with all of the sectarian and ethnic backgrounds."

In an interview several days ago, the U.S. ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, said Maliki had responded favorably to suggestions that militias be eliminated from the security forces, that ministers be independent of sectarian leaders, and that Shiites scale back a program barring many former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from government jobs.

In addition to the newest attacks against the interior ministry's recruits, there was fresh violence against Sunni men, allegedly at the hands of the Shiite-dominated police.

Family members in a Sunni area near Baghdad's Adhamiya district buried three men yesterday who they said were arrested on a highway while returning from work nine days ago.

The corpses of the three men were pulled from a sewage ditch and recovered from the morgue last weekend, their family members said.

The trial of Saddam Hussein adjourned until May 15, when the defense is expected to begin putting on witnesses. An unidentified U.S. official close to the case told Agence France-Presse that a verdict was expected by early August.

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